Pregame thoughts before a white-out

COUGARS

FROM PULLMAN — Fans are encouraged to wear white to tonight's game between Washington State and Arizona. Just how many will show up, well, that's another matter. But we're here, and we have some thoughts before the Cougars host another tough opponent. Read on.


Arizona has been like bizarro WSU this season in terms of its late-game tendencies. That is to say: the Wildcats have flirted with a few losses here and there, but have generally wound up pulling those games out. For example: close wins over Florida, San Diego State, Colorado (sort of) and, just two nights ago, Washington. And WSU? Well, yeah. So keep that in mind if this one goes down to the wire. … And to be honest, that's what I expect tonight. Yes, Arizona has only lost one road game, and that was at Oregon. But the Cougars seem to play everyone close, especially at  home. Winning, obviously, has been a different story. Something tells me WSU's desperation will be to its advantage tonight. … The key matchup, in my estimation, is Mike Ladd vs. Nick Johnson. Johnson is one of the best on-ball defenders in the conference, and Ladd has been WSU's sparkplug early in games throughout the conference season. If Johnson guards him — and I would guess that he will — it'll be a challenge for Ladd to continue his streak of double-digit first-half scoring performances. So the Cougars might need more production from their other perimeter players, Royce Woolridge especially. He's been a little more aggressive recently, and kept WSU in Thursday night's game by taking the ball to the rim. That's his strength, and he's better at it than anyone else on the Cougars' roster. Keep in mind, also, that Arizona ranks 11th in the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage defense. WSU will have to hit a few of those to have a chance in this one.

OK, all for now. As always, we'll be back afterward.

Christian Caple can be reached at christianc@spokesman.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

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